According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of obesity was 39.8% and affected about 93.3 million of US adults in 2015~2016. 12.5 million children and teens are also now facing the obesity epidemic. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer that are some of the leading causes of preventable, premature death. Obesity affects overall health and lifestyle. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the United States was $147 billion in 2008 US dollars; the medical cost for people who have obesity was $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
Genetics appear to play a role in the development and deposition of adipose tissue. There are genes that appear to be involved both in pathways regulating energy expenditure and food intake. These genes may predispose a person to obesity and its comorbidities.
BMI or Body Mass Index can be an indicator of high body fatness. BMI can be used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems, but it is not diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual. A BMI of 25-29.9 indicates overweight status, BMI from 30 to 39.9 indicates obesity and an BMI over 40 indicates morbid obesity.
Obesity can have serious health consequences. Heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, joint disease and arthritis, and even certain types of cancer are all preventable diseases related to obesity. Our lifestyles are determining our future health status. That cannot be over emphasized, what we are doing today is influencing our health conditions tomorrow. And it all starts with what we are consuming and physically doing or not doing.
Here are some tips for taking the first steps to becoming healthier and shedding unwanted pounds.
- Make small, manageable changes. Take small changes one at a time to ensure that they become habits and true changes that last for life. For example, if the majority of what you drink during the day consists of high calorie, sugary sodas, start there. Make one change in what you drink to decrease calories and you will likely see a dramatic change in the way you feel and have a substantial amount of weight loss in just that one change.
- Incorporate nutrient dense foods that are low in calories into your diet such as fruits and veggies! Try to incorporate fruits or vegetables with EVERY meal. The fiber in fruits and vegetables help keep you full for a long time and aid in digestion. Their antioxidant properties will help prevent certain diseases such as cancer. And since they are so low in calories, eat as much as you want!
- Track your foods. Writing down everything you eat during the day is a great weight loss tool. Research has shown that if we take the time to track what we eat, we are more aware of the amount of food we consume and it influences our food choices. Make yourself accountable and at the end of the week, show your food log to a family member, co-worker or friend.
- Get active! Sedentary lifestyles are contributing just as much to the obesity epidemic as the foods we eat. If time is not on your side and formal exercise is difficult to incorporate, small changes will add up. Park in the farthest parking spot at the grocery store, mall, or at work. Take the stairs instead of elevator or escalator. Take the time to move around at work. Use your lunch break to take a quick walk. Get creative with how you incorporate exercise and just remember, move more.
The environment, family, society, and culture affect development of overweight and obesity. People have problems with choosing appropriate portion sizes. These concepts should begin in the family environment. However, in an environment of many meals being eaten away from home, many people lack the knowledge to make good decisions. Registered dietitians and dietetic technicians, registered, under the supervision of a dietitian, help people understand the concept of eating behaviors and appropriate/necessary amounts. Working together as a team can help to attack the obesity epidemic.